rebels team complain unmanageable

dr rebel: the rebels in our organisation complain a lot and are unmanageable. should we just fire them?

in my almost 20 years of working in corporations, this probably was said about me too. and yes, it’s true that i was pretty critical and chose to speak up, but never to sit and idly watch to see things burn down while saying “i told you so”. i always took ownership of the problem and tried to solve it, even if it was outside my responsibilities.

watching Adam Grant’s TED talk about givers and takers was pivotal to me. adam grant, who is an organisational psychologist and professor at wharton, states that there are four types of people in any organisation and uses two axes: agreeable (polite, pleasing others) versus disagreeable (critical, sceptical, challenging), and giver (‘what can i do for you?’) versus taker (‘what can you do for me?’).

understanding motives
  • agreeable giver: too afraid to rock the boat when an idea strives to push the status quo. says yes to everything you ask them without questioning, even when it does not make sense or is (morally) the wrong thing to do.
  • agreeable taker: is nice to your face and then will stab you right in the back. If they help others, it’s only to get better themselves. they’ll help their superiors but not their coworkers.
  • disagreeable taker: takes ideas from others and shows off with them. is fundamentally selfish and shows little to no interest in helping others.
  • disagreeable giver: dares to give critical feedback that no one wants to hear, but everyone needs to hear. always willing to lend a hand and share ideas with others.
    he says the most undervalued employees are the disagreeable givers, those who dare to speak up when everyone else remains silent, but always with others’ best interest at heart. these are the rebels.

rebels are intrinsically motivated to make things better. they care so much about their work, that they are willing to risk conflict. their urge to speak up is so much stronger than their will to fit in. and so, they tend to disagree often, but only because they want to improve the situation.

so, please don’t mistake critiquing for complaining.

when people complain, they are reactive and expect someone else to fix the situation. when they critique, they are highly engaged and focused on finding solutions.   

thus, understanding the real motives of the people in your organisation will help you discover who your most valuable employees really are.

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